IBM Watson Group Headquarters

New York, New York

150,000 SF

International Design Award 2015;

New York Design 100 Award, Silver, 2015

Transforming four floors of Fumihiko Maki’s glass and steel structure at 51 Astor Place and creating an incubator for new applications of IBM’s breakthrough cognitive computing technology and a design studio for next-generation programs, software and apps.
The dedicated IBM Watson headquarters was conceived as a showcase for Watson’s capabilities, and an inspirational workspace for idea generators of all ages. This includes The Watson Client Interaction Center as well as offices, conference rooms, workstations, collaborative areas and dining. The Client Interaction Center is where clients come to experience Watson and learn about its capabilities. The M&C labs on two of the floors provide solutions to clients - designing and solving problems for their customers. Half of the fifth floor is where Watson itself resides and is also where clients are brought to solution their problems with Watson.

An environment was created which promotes collaboration and interaction. The Switzer Group designed a non-static, flexible space consisting of movable partitions, touch down desking and “bene” banquet quiet work areas, collaborative counters, POD workstations, phone booths, a maker’s space and study areas. Way finding is an essential element in the design and multi-purpose power poles were employed, which are color coded and movable, to organize and change different groups and departments depending on need.

The Switzer Group set the tone with a clean, timeless look for the interiors, combining terrazzo and textured metallic Laminam materials in the elevator banks, lots of glass, acoustical wood with walnut veneers, European-inspired furnishings and LED lighting throughout. The fourth floor design studio is a flexible, open floor plan, divisible by hanging panels that double as marker boards. Desks with all white surfaces are movable and can be raised and lowered for standing or sitting. To conrast the wide open spaces, seating areas and niches for small group gatherings, and glass enclosed “phone booths” for increased privacy, are strategically situated.

The Design approach was to create a blank canvas from which IBM could operate in an ever-changing environment, one that is fluid and expansive rather than static and fixed. To represent Watson’s capabilities, The Switzer Group designed a total sensory experience on the office’s fifth floor. Architectural fins that change color with the voice of Watson surround the circumference of the immersion room, where clients can interact directly with the technology. A 40 ft. video wall equipped with Oblong Industries’ futuristic Mezzanine ™ system allows visitors to move data from one screen to another with a wave of their hand.

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

Walt Disney